For a detailed overview of architectural photography, please start at our Architectural Photography – An introduction page.
What to charge for architectural photography?
This question is very common, and the fact you are asking it suggests you need more help than you might think. In fact this question of what to charge crops up in many industries, including management consulting, facilities management consultancy, professional services etc. It is very easy to search on Google and find out what other photographers, or professionals in your field, are currently charging, but what should you be charging for your architectural photography?
Points to consider
There are many factors that will influence your final rate, including the client, your region, job location and access, scope of work/ scale of project, duration of the engagement, lighting requirements, number of images, post-processing, image licensing, insurance requirements etc.
Advertised rates from the internet
A quick internet search reveals that rates for architectural/ property photography in England vary significantly. You will find rates on a per job basis for property photography, such as that required by vendors or estate agents, of between £90 and £200 per shoot. For more on what architectural photography is, take a look at this article.
Other architectural photography services come in at between £500 and £1500 per day.
This is a dramatic range of advertised prices. If you think about it, the photographer at the lower end of the price range has to work 3 days to make what the guy at the top end makes in one! Which end of the range would you like to be? And does this range work for you?
Also, recognize that the moment you use hourly or day rates to prepare your quotations, you have limited your earning potential.
So what to charge?
The first big question is how much do you want to earn? What should your annual income be?
Think carefully about this, it’s important. Then ask your self how many days will you actually work, or how many billable days will you have in a year. Be realistic, this number is likely to be far lower than you might think, especially as you are here reading this, which suggests you might just be considering setting out on your own.
Establishing your needs
To figure out what to charge, you need to consider your needs. In my former existence as an independent business consultant, I had 2 very important factors to consider. Firstly, my wife had a minimum income level that she would like me to achieve (which increased annually, well in excess of any inflationary increase!), while secondly, I had a maximum number of days that I wanted to work each year. These 2 factors tend to introduce tension, but if you need to make a bucket load of money to maintain domestic bliss, by doing as little work as possible, you have to earn more per working day if you want to enjoy life. Yes, it really is that simple.
Early on I found that 130 billable days per year was much more than enough. You might find you would like to work less days, perhaps around 85 to 90, to strike a good work-life balance.
So, let’s settle on a target of 100 billable days per year. In those 100 days you have to make enough money to keep you and your family happy, pay your National Insurance and Income Tax (if you are outside the UK simply apply your own statutory requirements), and cover all your running costs for the year.
In the UK you have a personal tax allowance, and income tax is applied in bands after deduction of your personal allowance from your earnings. We also have to pay National Insurance (NI) contributions.
We will look at some numbers next, but don’t worry, I have prepared a spreadsheet model which you can download. The spreadsheet will enable you to see the effects of changing your day rate and the number of days worked during a year, and indicate the rates that will yield the best results. Remember, the spreadsheet is not intended for use as a business model; it is provided for you to consider the concepts introduced. The following sections will introduce you to those concepts, but please read through the full article to ensure you understand what is happening when you change the inputs within the spreadsheet.